THE JUST DIE IN A SWEET PEACE.
In the sight of the unwise the servants of God appear to die, as worldlings do, with sorrow and reluctance. But God knows how to console His children even in the midst of the pains of death. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die, and their departure was taken for misery, and their going away from us for utter destruction; but they are in peace (Wis. iii. 1).
The souls of the just are in the hands of God…. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die, and their departure was taken for misery. In the sight of the unwise the servants of God appear to die, as worldlings do, with sorrow and reluctance. But God knows well how to console His children in their last moments; and, even in the midst of the pains of death, He infuses into their souls certain sweetnesses, as a foretaste of Paradise, which He will soon bestow upon them. As they who die in sin begin to experience on the bed of death a certain foretaste of hell, remorse and terrors and fits of despair, so, on the other hand, the Saints, by the frequent acts of Divine love which they then make, by their ardent desire and firm hope of soon possessing God, begin to feel that peace they will afterwards fully enjoy in Heaven. To the Saints death is not a punishment, but a reward.
When he shall give sleep to his beloved, behold the inheritance of the Lord (Ps. cxxvi. 2). The death of the Christian that loves God is called, not death, but sleep. Thus he shall be able to say: In peace in the self-same I will sleep and I will rest (Ps. iv. 9).
Father Suarez died with so much peace, that in his last moments he exclaimed: “I could never imagine that death would be so sweet.” When Cardinal Baronius was advised by his physician not to fix his thoughts so much on death, he said: “Perhaps you think I am afraid of death. I fear it not, but on the contrary, I love it.” In going to death for the Faith, the Cardinal of Rochester put on his best clothes, saying that he was going to a nuptial feast. Hence, at the sight of the scaffold he threw away his staff and said: Ite, pedes; parum a Paradiso distamus! Hasten, O my feet! We are not far from Paradise! Before death he intoned the “Te Deum,” to thank God for giving him the grace to die a Martyr for the holy Faith; and, full of joy, he laid his head on the block.
Ah, my supreme Good, my God, if in the past I have not loved Thee, I now turn to Thee with my whole soul. I take leave of all creatures, and choose Thee, my most amiable Lord, for the sole object of my love. Tell me what Thou wishest of me: I will do all Thou desirest. I have offended Thee enough: I wish to spend all the remaining moments of life in pleasing Thee.
St. Francis of Assisi began to sing at the hour of death and invited his brethren to join with him. Brother Elias said to him: “Father, at death we ought to weep rather than sing.” “But,” replied the Saint ,”I cannot refrain from singing, for I see that I shall soon go to enjoy my God.” A young nun of the order of St. Teresa, in her last illness said to her sisters in Religion who stood round her bed bathed in tears: “O God, why do you weep? I go to enjoy my Jesus. If you love me, rejoice with me!”
Father Granada relates that a certain huntsman found a solitary infected with leprosy, singing in his last agony. “How,” said he, “can you sing in such a state?” “Brother,” replied the hermit, between me and God there is nothing but the wall of this body. I now see that my flesh is falling off — that the prison walls will soon be destroyed, and that I shall go to see my God. It is for this reason that I rejoice and sing.” The desire of seeing God made St. Ignatius the Martyr say that if the wild beasts should not take away his life he would provoke them to devour him. St. Catherine of Genoa could not bear to hear death called a misfortune. Hence she would say: “Oh, beloved Death, in what mistaken light are you viewed! Why do you not come to me? I call on you night and day!” St. Teresa desired death so vehemently that she regarded as death the continuation of life. Hence she composed the celebrated hymn, –I die because I do not die. Such is death to the Saints.
Give me grace, O my God, to compensate by my love for my past ingratitude which has continued to this moment. I deserve to burn in the fire of hell for so many years; Thou hast sought after me, and hast drawn me to Thyself. Make me now burn with the fire of Thy holy love. I love Thee, O Infinite Goodness! Thou justly claimest all the affections of my heart; for Thou hast loved me more than all others have loved me. Thou alone deservest my love; Thee only do I wish to love. I desire to do everything in my power to please Thee. Do with me whatsoever Thou wishest. For me it is enough to love Thee and to be loved by Thee. Mary, my Mother, assist me. Pray to Jesus for me.